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US judge blocks enforcement of new abortion law

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana -- A federal judge has temporarily blocked Louisiana from enforcing its restrictive new abortion law. But lawyers and advocates appeared to disagree about whether the judge's order affects doctors at all five abortion clinics in the state or only those at three clinics whose lawsuit challenges the measure.

U.S. District Judge John deGravelles wrote that authorities cannot enforce the law until he holds a hearing on whether an order to block it is needed while the case remains in court.

The law requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 48 kilometers (30 miles) of their clinics. The lawsuit claims doctors haven't had enough time to obtain the privileges and the law likely would close all five clinics.

“Today's ruling ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups representing two northwest Louisiana clinics, one in suburban New Orleans, and doctors at those clinics, said in a news release.

But Kyle Duncan, representing state Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert, said in emails that it covers only the plaintiffs — not clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge or the doctors who work at those clinics.

DeGravelles' order states that “any enforcement” of the law is forbidden until a hearing. However, his next sentences state that the law will go into effect but plaintiffs cannot be penalized for practicing without admitting privileges during this period while their applications are still pending.

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